Lessons about Choosing your Craft Fairs Carefully

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Today guest blogger, Gillian Lancaster shares the criteria she used to select a craft fair to participate in and what she learned from a flop. 

We drove through the early morning darkness reflecting that after all our strategizing and demographic research we had a strong chance of good sales. Not only was the fair only for handcrafted items, but it was curated so there would be a variety of handcrafts represented. The organizer assured us it would be well advertised, and told us that historically it was very well attended. We were impressed to find Boy Scouts on hand who speedily carried our boxes inside. This was much appreciated given that it was raining hard and the box lids quickly developed puddles as they were sitting on the sidewalk.

The spaces in the hall had been carefully marked out in 8′ x 6′ rectangles, but it seemed that an extra row of tables had been added. This meant there was very little space for walking along the aisles, so there was a lot of polite shuffling to get through the limited free space! With the assistance of piles of paper towels, coffee and donuts we were soon dry, warm, and had our booth set up and our aprons on – ready for the doors to open.

The table next to us was a cookie fundraiser for the church Youth Group. This seemed like great way for people to see us, but unfortunately the line to buy cookies ran right in front of our booth for much of the morning. The people in line were busy chatting and not only unaware of our booth, but inadvertently blocking other people from getting to us. We slowly realized that although we saw this as a craft fair, for most attendees it was simply a church gathering.

Since traffic to our booth was light we took turns to walk around and chat with other crafters. A lot of people sold at craft fairs most weekends – and many of their stalls were very complex and covered two to three tables. Most vendors had come alone, but there were several husband and wife teams – plus our mother/daughter combo to round things out!

There was a wide variety of sewn items, soaps, cards, Christmas decorations and jewelry. We contributed baby and children’s dresses, journals, notebooks, gift boxes, Christmas cards and packaging supplies. The range of prices were quite broad, and we wondered how crafters with very low prices managed to cover the cost of their supplies. Our items fell in the middle of the price range but we were disappointed to have only two sales all day. Few vendors near us did any better, and several blamed the economy in this part of Pennsylvania. Some said they traveled to go to fairs out of the area.

Many vendors were playing with their phones, reading, chatting, or crafting halfheartedly. With two of us at the booth, we always tried to have one person ready to engage with people who stopped to look at our table. Unfortunately with so little traffic it was easy to get engrossed in other tasks.

There was one vendor who repeatedly yelled over the music to get shoppers to go over to her booth. This didn’t seem to be part of the generally accepted code of etiquette of craft fair behavior, but the organizer had vanished at 8:45 and no one else seemed eager to confront her.

When the end of the day finally came, everyone quickly finished packing up and hurried out the door – like school children released at the end of a long day of lessons! Sadly the Boy scouts were now no where to be seen, and so a rather unGodly crush of vehicles developed as people tried to get close to the door to get their boxes stowed away for a rapid escape!

On reflection we realized today was primarily a learning experience. We had actively sought a craft fair that was only for handmade items and curated to have a wide range of crafts, and we found that. Although the organizer told us the event was widely advertised, the turn out was weak, so we clearly need to ask more about where a fair is being advertised, to be sure that people who like to buy handcrafts are being targeted. Regretfully, since this is the third low income fair we’ve attended in this area, from now on will seek out fairs located in more affluent areas.

DSC02478     Next weekend’s event is a Boutique Crafts Fair – in a more affluent area. Hopefully we will do much   better there!

Listen in  HERE as Gillian and her daughter Caroline share their journey to create a handcrafted  livelihood.

See their gorgeous creations HERE. 

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